Will global warming change Native American religious practices?

Rosalyn R. LaPier, Harvard University

The Colorado River, one of the longest rivers in the United States, is gradually shrinking. This is partly a result of overuse by municipalities and seasonal drought. The other reason is global warming.

The decline in the river reservoir will have serious implications for large U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, that depend on the Colorado River as their water source. In addition, this will also have an impact on the Native American tribes who view the Colorado River as sacred to their religions.

As Ka-Voka Jackson, a member of the Hualapai tribe and a graduate student working to address climate change on the Colorado River and restoring native plant species along its banks, stated,

“The Colorado River is so sacred not just to my tribe, but to so many others.”

As a scholar of Native American religions and the environment, I understand how indigenous people’s religions and sacred places are closely tied to their landscape. For the past 100 years, indigenous peoples have been forced to adapt to changes in their environments and modify their religious rituals in the United States. The U.S. government made certain Native American religious practices illegal in the 19th and early 20th century. Although these policies have since been rescinded, they led to changes in many indigenous practices.

Global warming, however, is different. The question is whether indigenous people will be able to adapt their beliefs all over again due to the impact of global warming on the natural world.

Adapting to change

The Blackfeet tribe in Montana brought changes in their relationship with the natural world as a result of the policies of the U.S. government from the 1880s to the 1930s.

For example, the Blackfeet purposefully moved religious ceremonies from one time on their liturgical calendar to completely different times to avoid the U.S. government penalizing native people for dancing or participating in religious ceremonies.

The Blackfeet moved their annual O’kan, or sundance festival, from late summer (usually held at the end of August) to the Fourth of July celebration. They avoided U.S. government punishment by masking their ceremonies within state-sanctioned public events.

Policies related to the mining of natural resources and damming of rivers on indigenous lands have also led to changes in Native Americans’ religious practices.

Historian David R. M. Beck interviewed elders and researched how the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin adapted to the loss of their sacred fish, the sturgeon, after a paper mill built a dam across the Wolf River.

Lake sturgeon on Bad River in Wisconsin. USFWSmidwest, CC BY


The sturgeon disappeared after the dam was built in 1892, because they could no longer swim upstream to spawn. For over 100 years, the Menominee tribal members continued to pray and conduct their annual “returning of the sturgeon” ceremony in the spring – even though there were no more sturgeon in the river. The Menominee ultimately won the right to return the sturgeon to the Wolf River in 1992 and the tribe revitalized the full ceremony and celebration of their sacred fish.

In all these situations, Native American tribes learned to adapt to the challenges placed before them, modify their religious practice and embrace a different relationship with the natural world.

Global warming and religion

When it comes to global climate change, it affects everyone, not just specific groups in specific places. But for many indigenous peoples, natural resources are closely linked to religious beliefs and practices.

Historically, indigenous peoples used the natural seasonal cycles of weather, plants and animals as part of their liturgical or religious calendar. The Blackfeet held their annual “beaver bundle ceremony” in the early spring as ice melted off rivers and beavers returned to the open waters. In Blackfeet mythology, a beaver served as a deity who taught humans how to cultivate tobacco, which the tribe used for important religious ceremonies and as a peace offering to their enemies.

What would the movement of beavers mean? Bryn Davies, CC BY-NC-ND


There are signs, though, that beavers are now moving north due to global warming. Biologists are currently studying both beavers and the birch and alder shrubs that beavers eat, as both move north into new regions. Scientists worry that as a keystone species, the movement of beavers will change the northern ecosystems as they cut off waterways and build beaver dams. And shrubs will change the local waterways that they grow by. This will affect local animal species.

What will happen when there are no more beaver in Blackfeet territory? Will their religious traditions adapt similar to the Menominee when they faced the loss of their sacred sturgeon?

Religion and resiliency

From the arctic tundra to the American desert southwest, and places worldwide, indigenous peoples will be facing the impact of global climate change.

Regarding the shrinking of the Colorado River, researchers Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck have concluded that, “Failing to act on climate change means accepting the very high risk that the Colorado River basin will continue to dry up into the future.”

If this river faces a drier future, it will likely affect the Mojave, a people indigenous to the Colorado River basin, who believe the river was created by their ancient deity Mastamho as part of their sacred landscape.

As the G-20 convenes in Germany this week to discuss global issues including climate change, indigenous scholars, such as myself, are wondering what the future holds for indigenous peoples, their environments and their religions.

The ConversationIndigenous communities can be resilient and adapt their internal religious beliefs to outside challenges, as Native American tribes from the turn of the 20th century have proven. Climate change presents yet another challenge.

Rosalyn R. LaPier, Research Associate of Women’s Studies, Environmental Studies and Native American Religion, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Can Caribbean cricket get its (political) groove back?

Adnan Hossain, University of Amsterdam

Caribbean cricket fans were dismayed in early June when, for the first time since the ICC Champions Trophy started in 1998, the West Indies Cricket Team did not qualify for this prestigious international competition, which recently concluded in England and Wales.

Winner of the Champions Trophy in 2004 and of the 1975 and 1979 World Cups, the West Indies squad is now at risk of not qualifying for the upcoming World Cup cricket competition in 2019.

Cricket lovers are struggling to understand the decline of the West Indies team, which is composed of athletes from 15 countries, British dependencies and other Caribbean territories, including Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados.

In this region of the world, cricket has never been just a sport. In the 20th century struggle against British domination, cricket was central to the Caribbean’s anticolonial independence project.

Today, my 2015 research in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago found, its meaning has changed. For poor young men, international cricket is often seen as a way out of poverty and into the lap of luxury.

Liberation cricket

Originally introduced by British colonisers in the 19th century as an exclusively white male-dominated imperial sport, cricket quickly drew Afro-Caribbean players.

Afro-Caribbeans were allowed to join the West Indies Cricket Team in 1900, and by the 1940s they were numerically dominant. In 1960, an Afro-Caribbean man, Frank Worrell, became the first black captain of the West Indies Cricket Team.

Sir Frank Worrell, far right, in 1961.
The National Archive of Australia/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA


A similar quest for belonging spurred the cricketing aspirations of Caribbeans of Indian descent, whose relatives had been brought to the region as indentured laborers after the abolition of slavery in 1834.

Indo-Caribbean players, who are now closely identified with cricket, especially in Guyana and Trinidad, also originally saw the sport as a vehicle for affirming an Indo-Caribbean identity.

Caribbean cricket narratives and histories tend to focus on the sport’s association with anti-colonial resistance and the efflorescence of a unified West Indian consciousness against the white planter class – what’s often called liberation cricket.

A Guyanese athlete in Trinidad

But contemporary Caribbean cricket is something quite different. Over the past two decades, globalisation and commercialisation of the sport have largely undone its political underpinnings.

The new story of cricket takes the form of Sukdeo Sisnarine, a 23-year-old aspiring Guyanese cricketer who plays in a Trinidadian domestic cricket league.

More than just a sport. Adnan Hossain, Author provided


Sukdeo was connected to a cricket club through former players and arrived in Trinidad for his first stint after only a telephone conversation with a manager of the club, a common international recruitment practice in Trinidad.

Now he migrates to Trinidad from January to June each year to play. When I met him in a cricket club in 2015, it was his third sojourn there.

Guyanese are the largest group of overseas athletes playing in the Trinidadian cricket league; in 2015, nearly 25 of the 30 international players were from Guyana (the league has between one hundred or so cricketers in total).

Though geographically located in South America, Guyana is culturally Caribbean, and it is one of the poorest economies in the region, with an estimated per capita GDP of US$7,900 in 2016.

In contrast, Trinidad is one of the Caribbean’s richest countries. Last year, its estimated GDP per person was US$31,900.

For cricketers from poorer Caribbean countries like Guyana, Trinidad’s semi-professional cricket league offers financial opportunities. Guyanese athletes can play competitive cricket while earning some extra money on the side.

Caribbean cricketers practicing in a Trinidadian cricket club. Adnan Hossain, Author provided


When I knew him, Sukdeo was working in a car parts factory next to the cricket club he played for. He estimated his total earnings that season at about US$5,000.

This income allowed him to buy and do things that would have been impossible in Guyana, like going to the movies, purchasing designer sunglasses and choosing brand-name clothing.

Guyanese as the “small Islanders”

Such consumer pleasures can come at a cost.

In Trinidad, the Guyanese are often portrayed as backwards, and people routinely mock the way they speak English, though they are native speakers. “Small islanders”, they’re called. Guyana is not an island, of course, let alone a small one. In Trinidad, this odd diminutive serves as a metaphor for the country’s poverty.

The economic disparity between the two countries produces social hierarchies, with Guyanese cricketers, as well as other male economic migrants, often seen in Trinidad as unwanted fortune-seekers.

This stereotype to some extent reflects the reality that for Sukdeo and many other young men I met in Trinidad, cricket is not so much a passion or a political statement as it is a professional pathway to wealth, conspicuous consumption and international travel – all signs of success in this neoliberal world.

Trinidadian club managers and owners routinely recruit their Guyanese athletes to play for cricket leagues in Canada and the United States. In 2015, Sukdeo obtained visa sponsorship from a cricket club in Canada, allowing him to travel out of the Caribbean for the first time in his life.

Trinidad thus serves as a jumping-off point for Caribbean athletes who hope to emigrate, helping them to connect with the Caribbean diaspora in North America. In the US alone, there are an estimated 4 million Caribbean immigrants.

Neoliberal cricket

Still, Sukdeo didn’t want to be in Trinidad or in Canada for that matter. He wanted to be recruited for the Indian Premier League (IPL), the most expensive cricket franchise in the world since its inception in 2008.

The IPL, which changed the format of the game to shorten day-long matches, boasts massive injections of corporate capital, Bollywood-star team owners, foreign cheerleaders and world-calibre cricketers. It has radically repackaged cricket as high-paced glamorous entertainment.

Prior to the IPL, players from the West Indies Cricket Team – politically-minded men like Sir Vivian Richards and Clive Lloyd – were the role models for aspiring young Caribbean cricketers like Sukdeo.

Today, it’s the lavish lifestyle of IPL athletes that most appeal.

Once a site for anti-colonial resistance and consolidation of a West Indian identity, contemporary Caribbean cricket is devoid of such political connotations.

This paradigmatic shift may account for the sad state of the West Indies cricket team this year. It seems that neoliberal cricket just can’t compete with the liberation cricket of yore.

The ConversationThis article was written as part of the GLOBALSPORT project funded by the European Research Council and based at the University of Amsterdam.

Adnan Hossain, Postdoctoral fellow, University of Amsterdam

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Dr. Lonnie Smith keeps playing live

Up to this day, the technology just keeps advancing and giving us further convenience including musical “experience”. The establishment of Youtube channel, Spotify, iTunes and so on, enables us to enjoy abundant of music materials. Not only that, the advancing internet streaming also gives us the option to watch “live” music performance anywhere in the world with the comfort at our own home. However, live streaming, even in real time, is still not real live. Virtual “live” music performance lacks of real connection between the audience and the performing artist(s), not to mention the live atmosphere that takes place during the performance.

Experiencing live musical voices, melody, rhythm and harmony could enhance our emotion, and elevate our sensibility; being there in the crowd could also give us the sense of commune. So no matter how advance the broadcasting or streaming technology is, real live performance still cannot be replaced.

In the recent Java Jazz concert, Listen to the World (LttW) had the opportunity to briefly interview Dr. Lonnie Smith, a prominent Afro American Hammond keyboardist. We incidently ran into him in the hall way right before his gig started. Although in a hectic situation, he kindly granted the interview. During his performance, we felt his glorious spirit through his mimic, keyboard playing, and his rhythm improvisation on electric pad drum. Obviously the emotion and power of his performance hits our vein at the time.

Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unparalleled musician, composer, performer and recording artist. An authentic master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ for over five decades, he has been featured on over seventy albums, and has recorded and performed with a virtual “Who’s Who” of the greatest jazz, blues and R&B giants in the industry. Consequently, he has often been hailed as a “Legend,” a “Living Musical Icon,” and as the most creative jazz organist by a slew of music publications. Jazz Times magazine describes him as “a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban!” Always ahead of the curve, it is no surprise that Dr. Smith has a worldwide fan-base.
Taken from: drlonniesmith.com

Dr Smith, you seem like a very peaceful person, what’s the key to that?

Relax… Take life easy, because it goes so fast. People tend to do everything. So don’t rush doing it all.

You said Hammond B3 is your favorite organ that has all of the elements, like fire, rain. Is it the sound or the feeling?

It is the feel and also sounds, and when I was playing it was like electricity, it’s like a plane flying through my body. So it has everything that could happen; when it passes you can’t beat that.

Being in Jakarta, it’s really far from US; with the internet streaming, you can actually perform live for millions people from your home, why bother coming here?

If you play music, you should be playing live. Experience the live atmosphere that you have, instead of just notes, you know…

I want to play for people in different places and see other flavor of experiences and so on; being here it’s real, not fake. One on one with the people is worth it; it’s worth all the traveling. When you play for people, right there, nothing beats that. If you play bad, then you want to play more. It’s worth something that you always cherish in your life. Don’t have to worry about on and off or stuff.

I may fall when I didn’t finish what I had to do. When I said passed, I will return to complete my work. It’s nothing that real as far as I know. It’s special; I was brought to earth to play music. That’s why I want to [keep] playing ‘live’.


France, reaffirming her national identity:
liberté, égalité, fraternité

[Jakarta, LttW]. After months of uncertainty and anxiety, the French people have finally spoken, and the world hears their voice loud and clear! Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron forged a historic and landslide win in recent French Presidential election, not only because he leads the youngest political party (En Marche!) to a victory, but also becomes the youngest President of France ever. What’s more, Macron defeated the much-feared far right thoughts and movement led by the Front National Party’s candidate Marine Le Pen.

Since the establishment of En Marche! Macron has received numerous political endorsements coming from array of supporters that include the eco movement party Écologistes!, centrist political party Mouvement Démocrate (MoDem), socialists, and also the French Muslims. Even so, Macron is yet to assemble majority support in the Parliament to implement his campaign promises. Macron himself, in his victory speech, promises to reunite the divisive France.

As for Europe, another battle between the globalist and nationalist is going to take place once again in Germany’s federal election in September, 2017. After two major wins in Netherlands and France, we’ll see if the globalist can do the same in Germany.

In the meantime, saluer les gens de France pour défendre sa véritable identité nationale :
la liberté, l’égalité, et la fraternité ! et félicitations monsieur Macron ! It’s time to replace the Front National’s campaign motto “On est chez nous” with “C’est notre véritable maison!”
Keep marching En Marche! (desk)